West Marine plans to close all three stores on Vancouver Island

West Marine is closing all its stores in Canada, including three on Vancouver Island, as leases expire in the next few years.

The California-based company had 10 stores in Canada. That number dropped to nine when it closed its Toronto outlet last month.

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“Most of these stores that [have leases] coming up just didn’t meet our financial hurdles in order to renew the lease,” said West Marine spokeswoman Laurie Fried.

West Marine’s Island stores are in Victoria at 2929 Douglas St., Sidney at 2210 Beacon Ave. and in Nanaimo at 120-2000 Terminal Ave. N. There are also stores in Vancouver and Richmond, and four Ontario stores in Oakville, Barrie, Midland and Kingston.

The company, which sells boats and boating supplies, has been in Greater Victoria for a decade.

It is the second major American retailer recently to announce plans to exit from Canada. Target said last month that it is closing all of its 133 stores in Canada because they are losing money.

Sometime around the end of this year, West Marine will close its stores in Sidney, Nanaimo, Richmond, Barrie, Midland and Kingston, Fried said.

“They close as their leases expire so it is somewhat staggered but it is not until the back end of the year,” she said.

The final three — Victoria, Vancouver and Oakville — are expected to close in 2017 and 2018, said Fried. No closings are planned in 2016.

West Marine is a major player in the marine-supply industry. It has 270 stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, selling everything from boats to engine parts to clothing and gadgets.

“For a long time, we’ve been grappling with providing for the needs of our Canadian stores,” Fried said.

“Merchandise is different, laws are different, and quite frankly, we felt we weren’t doing as good a job as we should have. We heard from our store managers as well as our customers that we would have advertising but we wouldn’t have those products in store.”

Certain products are required in Canada due to government legislation that are not carried by the U.S. company, she said.

West Marine faced “a lot of logistical hurdles and marketing hurdles.”

The marine industry has been affected by the Internet, said Campbell Thomson, an owner of the family business Trotac Marine Ltd. at 370 Gorge Rd. East.

“The Internet is the biggest competition that’s going on now, of course, and that’s with every industry.”

Trotac has a diversified customer base, serving recreational, commercial and industrial marine sectors, he said.

Marine retail stores are also seeing fewer customers who buy supplies to work on boats themselves. “It’s a generational thing.”

In the past, someone would start by building an eight-foot dinghy, for example, with his or her father, and work up to a 42-foot boat in two-foot increments during 30 years, Thomson said. Such customers still buy their own materials and want to be self-sufficient.

Today, a buyer of a 42-foot boat might be a first-time boat owner, Thomson said. The new owner is more likely to take the vessel to a yacht-servicing company for repairs or upgrading.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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